It was the ultimate family celebration. A time for all of us in the tribe to count our myriad blessings. We weren't smug about it or anything; we knew how fortunate we were. We just didn't realize how tenuous our hold on happiness really was. But can you blame us? All four members of the Ladner-Beaudry clan were healthy, happy and looked to the future with nothing but optimism and good will. We were a typical 21 st century middle-class family. We had our issues, sure. But nothing that was insurmountable.
Indeed, life looked entirely bright. The girls were growing up into thoughtful and productive adults, Wendy had a busy and fulfilling career going on, and I... well, I was having a heck of a lot of fun writing and telling stories.
Christmas '08 was great that way. We celebrated the day with our annual Whistler Mountain family ski-around - saw all our old friends and acquaintances - and closed out the Yule festivities with a big turkey dinner and lots of toasts to our good health and fortune. Little did we know how much our life would change in the intervening 12 months.
Maybe it's because I just celebrated my 55 th birthday. Maybe it's because the Christmas season has always featured such a strong family theme for me. Whatever. I miss Wendy more this week than I have in a long time. And though my daughters try valiantly to mask their emotions, I know they feel exactly the same way I do...
It's been eight months since my lovely wife was stolen from our lives. Eight long, difficult months in which we three survivors have done what we can to rebuild our shattered existence. And it hasn't been easy. Our home is full of ghosts. The ghost of Wendy's smiling face in the morning; her quiet insistence that we "think of our next astern" when we got too me-focused; her laughter at my stupid jokes; her calmness in a storm; her warmth; her friendship; her unqualified love.
She was the glue that held the family together. The steady hand at the helm. And while I gallivanted around the world searching out good stories to tell, she remained at home and kept the hearth fire burning.
And yet she never complained. Mostly she took what life handed to her in stride. "It's all part of the job," Wendy would say with just a hint of irony in her smile. And though she would voice her frustration with my domestic ineptitude from time-to-time, as long as I made an effort she was happy.